ICMSA: ‘Lairage issue can’t be used as excuse for poor calf prices’

The Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association (ICMSA) stated today (March 20) that the lairage issue in Cherbourg “cannot be used as an excuse for poor calf prices”.

The statement comes in the aftermath of a row that has developed between the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine over lairage capacity in France.

Just last week the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Michael Creed announced an additional 400 spaces in Cherbourg.

However, IFA president Joe Healy has since determined that an additional 600 calves could be delivered within days “with some cooperation from the minister and the French authorities”.

Des Morrison, chairperson of the ICMSA’s Livestock Committee, told AgriLand this afternoon that the calf trade is “very poor” this year and the lairage issue in Cherbourg was contributing to that.

While the additional capacity announced by the minister is welcome it is clearly insufficient.

Morrison added: “Both short and long-term plans are required to ensure that sufficient lairage capacity is available so that our livestock can get to continental Europe without any infrastructural obstacles.”

He went on to say that the ICMSA does not accept the idea that the lairage issue explained or excused poor prices.

‘Intent on talking down the price of calves’

Morrison also pointed out that live export levels in calves – so far this year – are running ahead of comparable 2018 levels and it is clear to him that “some people are intent on talking down the price of calves”.

He added: “Those people have succeeded in damaging market confidence for calves and live exporters should be leading the way by increasing the prices they pay for calves.

It really is as simple as this: If they want calves suitable for their markets in future years, then they are going to have to pay for them.

“The lairage issue does need to be resolved – it cannot be used as an excuse for poor calf prices.”

Floating the law

Yesterday (March 19) the department said the minister has been in “continuous communication” with the French authorities regarding the provision of lairage.

Last week 400 extra spaces were announced and it is worth noting that calf exports to date are running 20% ahead of the same time last year.

The spokesperson concluded: “The minister will not countenance the use of facilities not approved by the French authorities. Adherence to animal welfare law is critical for the protection of the trade.”